Premature Departures in the Ben Howland Era

It's the million dollar question with our program. It's haunted us for years. It has nothing to do with the zone defense, or with the aberrational confidence in Mr. Dragojevic (which is maddening precisely because it's an aberration). It has to do with our premature departures, and I think the topic deserves it's own thread.

Every player in the Howland era -- except Collison -- has fled to the NBA at the earliest chance. Nobody can begrudge Love and Westbrook, and it was pretty clear Westbrook would've stayed if not for his meteoric rise to lottery status. Also, Love has publicly said he would've liked to stay, but just couldn't pass up the lottery. (Dohn also wrote at the time that if not for his father Love very well might have stayed another year because he loved it so much. Worth noting in light of the suspicion that nobody has fun in our program.)

But AA's departure cost us a championship (imo) in 2008. LRMAM's departure cost us title contention last year. JH's departure crippled us at the point guard position this year. Only Farmar's departure didn't hurt, because it opened the door for Westbrook and Collison was a great replacement. In total, however, there's a definite pattern. And yes, it's a definite problem. But what's the solution?

The dilemma I see is that the early departures are due not to Howland's weakness but his strength. Through grueling, intense practices he's taught his talent to play elite defense, and once the players learn it they feel ready to move on. The prospect of improving their draft stock ten spots, from top 30 to top 20, does not outweigh a year's paycheck, and they seem to have the confidence that they can play at the next level and prove their case. Unlike at other programs, they know they can't come back and just coast for a year on coeds and alley-oops. So the incentive for returning is limited. I see no way out of this, unless Howland becomes adept at tricking his talent into remaining, which is unethical on his part. 

Now of course the early departures have claimed that their offensive abilities were "held back." Their camps will claim anything to improve draft stock. But did AA seem held back to you? Westbrook? Love? Collison? Does Honeycutt seem held back now? Sure Farmar played in a down-tempo style that year; do you wish he played in a flash-and-dash, lose in the first round offense that would've almost certainly kept him around?

Putting aside the tired old arguments about the Howland offense, which hasn't been slow much of the time, do you really believe that "showcasing" physical abilities should take precedence over efficiency and success in the offensive scheme?  

Basically, I'd like to see how people think this problem can be solved without

a) diverging fundamentally from the rigors and defensive intensity of Ben Ball (like how that's gone the last two years, by the by?)


b) trickiness by Howland in convincing players to stay.

Really, I'd like to know. This is doubtless a major problem. But as I see it, it's a consequence of the best of Ben Howland more than the worst. Appeasing talent and keeping them around does not seem compatible with the type of Ben Ball that teaches them fast and well and painfully. 

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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